RALEIGH -- Rangers forward John Mitchell looked a little peeved as he skated to the dressing room in the waning minutes of the game.
He had just blocked a Joni Pitkanen slap shot with his head, trying to preserve what became a 5-3 New York victory. The sour face, instead of a look of concern, seemed like an odd response.
"You're just frustrated because, who wants to block a shot with your face, right?" said Mitchell, with seven stitches above his right eye.
The blocked shots are all in a day's work for the Rangers lately, who have won four straight in a style that sits well with their coach.
"We're one of the better teams at blocking shots," John Tortorella said after his team's fourth consecutive victory. "It's one of the things we're asking all the guys to do. It's part of it, and I think it starts with our leadership. Look at Ryan Callahan, who's wearing the 'C.' He does all that stuff. When you're winning as we are right now, people start buying into it."
In all, the Rangers blocked 21 shots, to go with a diversified offense that saw 14 players hit the scoresheet. Marian Gaborik led the way with a goal and an assist, both coming in a five-minute flurry in the second period that resulted in three goals and a 4-2 lead.
The middle goal of the three was the prettiest, and it put the Rangers ahead 3-2. All Gaborik had to do was finish.
The Hurricanes showed some jump early in their second game under new coach Kirk Muller -- but went home with their fifth straight loss, four in regulation.
Jiri Tlusty beat Martin Biron 35 seconds into the contest, snapping home a wrist shot after Brandon Sutter won the faceoff. But Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk was whistled for tripping 25 seconds later, and the Rangers capitalized when Brad Richards threaded a pass to Callahan, who tapped in his own rebound at 1:42 to tie the game at 1-1.
Jeff Skinner gave the Hurricanes their second lead of the period when he gloved a puck out of midair, settled it in the slot and whacked it home with 8.7 seconds remaining in the period.
But the Rangers found their offensive stride in the second. Ryan McDonagh tied the game with a wrister that clipped the stick of Carolina defenseman Derek Joslin and beat Cam Ward. Gaborik's team-leading 12th goal of the season followed quickly, and Gaborik helped extend the lead to 4-2 by setting up Sean Avery for his third of the season.
For the Hurricanes (8-15-4), the light at the end of the tunnel is still not visible.
"We had some breakdowns, a little bit of 1-on-1 type stuff," Muller said. "We went through a few different things. We've really on had one practice, so it's going to take a little time, but they're trying."
Joslin cut New York's lead to 4-3 with his first goal of the season late in the second period, but the Rangers didn't flinch. They allowed just seven Carolina shots in the third period, and Michael Sauer added an insurance goal with 14:18 remaining.
Tortorella thinks his team can build on the poise they showed in the final 20 minutes.
"I'm sure there will be some times this year when we struggle with that, but we can rely on how we did this (tonight)," he said. "It wasn't a great game, but we found a way to win."
The Hurricanes would gladly settle for such a game. With just three wins in the past 15 games, more changes may be on the way. Ten teams had scouts in the press box, suggesting that general manager Jim Rutherford may be looking to make a trade.
"I went through this last year and it’s not a fun situation where you start hearing the rumors, but we’re professionals and it’s part of the game,” said Carolina defenseman Bryan Allen, who was a minus-3 after beginning the game a team-best plus-3. "If you don’t perform and don’t play up to your game, then that’s the way it is. We get paid a lot of money to do a job and you’ve got to do the job — and be prepared.”
As for the Rangers, they will try to keep the good times coming. When most of the roster winds up with points, it can only help.
"We have some good momentum, and guys have some confidence now," McDonagh said. "Pucks are finding the back of the net. As long as you can ride that out and keep the wins coming, that's a good sign."